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TOPIC: Time of Day

Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 15:01 #102430

This question has probably come up at some point, but I thought I'd bring it up now: Do people notice a different quality in their sitting meditation depending on time of day? What has prompted me to think about it is something I noticed on my brief retreat two weekends back; that is, two series of afternoon sits that were deliciously relaxed, with some hypnagogic states sinking into deeper levels of samadhi. My morning sits, especially once the day has started, tend more to be active, with a propensity for distraction. (The 6:00 a.m. sit I had yesterday was dreamy, but it felt more as if I needed to be back in bed.)

I've also noticed a lot of purification activity (twitching, shaking, etc.) in the evening. So there it is: morning alertness, afternoon sweet dreaminess and deep, relaxed focus, evening energetic phenomena. None of this is hard and fast, and all of it depends on when and what I've eaten, how rested I am, and so on.
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Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 17:01 #102433

I mostly follow that same pattern. Mornings after sunrise are very lucid/luminous, mid-morning seems to be good for investigation and actively dissecting reactive patterns, post lunch tends to be good for lucid napping :), afternoons tend to be very mellow and deep, night tends to be kinda trippy/lucid-dreamy and good for very primal type investigations (fear, aversion) or touching on the mindstream.
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Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 18:29 #102434

So, to follow up, if a person has a habit of sitting at a certain time of day every day, would people say that it would tend to limit that person's insights? Or take longer to get the full range necessary for stream entry, or other paths, or anything else for that matter? Do certain times lend themselves best to certain kinds of practice? I have thought about this question, but not to the point of concluding anything.
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Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 18:41 #102435

FWIW, I always practice for two 30 minute periods each day:

- morning was vipassana
- evening was jhana

This worked very well.
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Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 18:46 #102436

Last Edit: 03 Feb 2016 18:47 by Chris Marti.
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Time of Day 03 Feb 2016 20:04 #102437

Laurel Carrington wrote:
So, to follow up, if a person has a habit of sitting at a certain time of day every day, would people say that it would tend to limit that person's insights? Or take longer to get the full range necessary for stream entry, or other paths, or anything else for that matter? Do certain times lend themselves best to certain kinds of practice? I have thought about this question, but not to the point of concluding anything.

I think one of the advantages of sitting at prescribed times is that one relinquishes some control (if one is the sort of person who prefers to sit when one feels like it). A fixed schedule means you sit no matter how you feel, and that in itself points to an important insight - that 'good meditation' is not about what mood you are in or what you are thinking about.

So many people wake up in so many different contexts I don't think you can say "having this method/technique/schedule guarantees fast results." [Personally I think most of our ideas of 'helping' the process are just our own self-involved diddling around in response to waking up happening by grace, but that sense of having an important role to play in our awakenings is part of the process, so it's fine and doesn't need to be changed. It will change by itself when the time is right.]

I'd say I have a generally similar body cycle day to day - IF my sleep pattern is the same [drowsy after meals, tending to do more active or physical work before lunch, and more cerebral focused work in the afternoons, given a choice]. But because I don't have a fixed work schedule I don't have a fixed sleep schedule or fixed meal schedules, so my daily routine is not the same all the time. For pre-Lent home retreat I'm going to make a schedule like one would have at a group retreat, just to mess with myself.
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Time of Day 05 Feb 2016 06:30 #102474

I agree, a lot of times people try to "game" their practice. It seems like trying to pick a particular time of day could lend itself to that tendency.

That said, I know that when someone is particularly stuck, it can be useful to suggest a time of day or a sitting position or even breathing pattern to help cultivate a particular flavor of realization. I've found that helpful, but it only seems relevant with particularly difficult times during practice, maybe once or twice a year. Otherwise, "straight ahead"!

I think SE is a lot more organic than needing a particular state of mind and then finding the time of day conducive to that state of mind. Frankly, sometimes people use the same language that is used for modern psychological medication treatments, take X for Y, but I'm convinced that there is so much more in the power of our habitual thinking that any drug or meditation tool or technique or map can easily be easily overpowered by our old habits. So a practice that is more about taking our executive choices away and just looking at the habitual mind is probably going to be better than one that is micromanaged with tools and techniques. The best teachers seem to know how to leave the student alone and let them see things for themselves. And the best students extend their practice into all times of the day, to all states of experience (happy, sad, motivated, unmotivated, healthy, sick, clear-minded, dull-minded, alert, sleepy...) and are able to get curious about the luminous knowing that is apart of every experience, even during dull confusion. :)

It can be useful to remember that most of these meditation techniques were developed for use in an immersive retreat or monastic setting. All day, all night, someone would slowly keep hitting their head against the wall of their own habits and resistances, simple practices would be used to keep them just active/entertained/engaged enough that they could get through another day, and older monks/spiritual councilors might be called upon or might intercede and help guide a person past their stumbling block of the week/month/year.

Retreats have a way of working things from all angles, for the entire cycle of the day, which is why they can really advance meditation and basic sanity in sometimes amazing ways. People who really live their practice all day seem to make the most progress, checking in throughout the day, "oh, this is how the body feels", "oh, these are the thoughts that arise", "oh, these are the emotional habits that I reflexively use to cope with uncertainity", "wow, what is this awareness that holds all things?", and finally "what is this?"
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